Jackie McNamara has claimed that Celtic manager Neil Lennon is “protecting” under-fire full-back Boli Bolingoli from criticism after his indifferent start to the season.

Speaking exclusively to Football Insider, the former Hoops and Scotland star says that the 24-year-old has been shielded by the Northern Irish boss so far, suggesting that Lennon is trying to coax some good form out with his approach.

Bolingoli, who arrived from Rapid Vienna in the summer, went straight into the starting XI at Parkhead but has endured a difficult start to his career at the club after a number of questionable defensive performances.

McNamara insists Lennon will be putting his arm around the player’s shoulder to try and get him back to form but says that the player has to reward his manager’s faith with good performances.

Asked by Football Insider if Lennon was protecting the defender from criticism, McNamara said: “Yeah, I think he did that after the Motherwell game, saying it takes time to adjust and protecting his player rather than hanging him out there.

“With him being foreign, sometimes they don’t get to hear the criticism or see it.

“It’s what a manager has to do, protect his player. Some players are going to have bad games. It’s about how they respond to it. From Neil’s side, he needs the players to help him. He’ll be putting his arms round the player but they’ve got to help him as well.”

With Champions League and Europa League qualifiers to add to their domestic fixtures, Bolingoli has already played nine times for the Bhoys, including the full 90 minutes against AIK on Wednesday evening.

He has a lack of competition at left-back after Kieran Tierney’s departure to Arsenal, Lennon having used both Callum McGregor and Jonny Hayes when Bolingoli has been taken out the starting XI.

In other Celtic news, it can be REVEALED that club chiefs are “devastated” as defender decides to quit after snubbing series of improved contract offers.